History of the 1924 Olympics in Paris

The Chariots of Fire Games

Harold Abrahams winning gold at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.
Harold Abrahams at the Paris Olympics of 1924. Harold Abrahams won a gold medal in the 100-Meter dash, equaling the Olympic record of 10.6. He had also clocked 10.6 in his two qualifying heats. Abrahams, born in Great Britain, was the first non-American to win the event. (Photo by Jewish Chronicle/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

As an honor to the retiring IOC founder and president Pierre de Coubertin (and at his request) the 1924 Olympic Games were held in Paris. The 1924 Olympics, also known as the VIII Olympiad, were held from May 4 to July 27, 1924. These Olympics saw the introduction of the first Olympic Village and the first Closing Ceremony.

Official Who Opened the Games: President Gaston Doumergue
Person Who Lit the Olympic Flame (This was not a tradition until the 1928 Olympic Games)
Number of Athletes: 3,089 (2,954 men and 135 women)
Number of Countries: 44
Number of Events: 126

First Closing Ceremony

Seeing the three flags raised at the end of the Olympics is one of the more memorable traditions of the Olympic Games and it started in 1924. The three flags are the official flag of the Olympic Games, the flag of the hosting country, and the flag of the country chosen to host the next Games.

Paavo Nurmi

Paavo Nurmi, the "Flying Finn," dominated nearly all the running races at the 1924 Olympics. Often, called a "superman," Nurmi won five gold medals at this Olympics, including in the 1,500-meter (set an Olympic record) and the 5,000-meter (set an Olympic record), which were only about an hour apart on that very hot July 10.

Nurmi also won gold in the 10,000-meter cross-country run and as a member of the winning Finnish teams on the 3,000-meter relay and the 10,000-meter relay.

Nurmi, known for keeping a very even pace (which he clocked on a stopwatch) and his seriousness, went on to win nine gold medals and three silver while competing in the 1920, 1924, and 1928 Olympics. Over his lifetime, he set 25 world records. 

Remaining a popular figure in Finland, Nurmi was given the honor of lighting the Olympic flame at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki and, from 1986 to 2002, appeared on the Finnish 10 markkaa banknote.

Tarzan, the Swimmer

It's pretty obvious that the public liked to see American swimmer Johnny Weissmuller with his shirt off. At the 1924 Olympics, Weissmuller won three gold medals: in the 100-meter freestyle, 400-meter freestyle, and the 4 x 200-meter relay. And a bronze medal as well as part of the water polo team. 

Again at the 1928 Olympics, Weissmuller won two gold medals in swimming.

However, what Johnny Weissmuller is most famous for is playing Tarzan in 12 different movies, made from 1932 to 1948.

Chariots of Fire

In 1981, the film Chariots of Fire was released. Having one of the most recognizable theme songs in the history of film and winning four Academy Awards, Chariots of Fire told the story of two runners who raced during the 1924 Olympic Games.

Scottish runner Eric Liddell was a focus of the film. Liddell, a devout Christian caused a stir when he refused to compete in any events held on a Sunday, which were some of his best events. That left only two events for him -- the 200-meter and 400-meter races, which he won bronze and gold in respectively.

Interestingly, after the Olympics, he went back to North China to continue his family's missionary work, which ultimately led to his death in 1945 in a Japanese internment camp.

Liddell's Jewish teammate, Harold Abrahams was the other runner in the Chariots of Fire film. Abrahams, who had focused more on the long jump in the 1920 Olympics, decided to put his energy into training for the 100-meter dash. After hiring a professional coach, Sam Mussabini, and training hard, Abrahams won gold in the 100-meter sprint.

A year later, Abrahams suffered a leg injury, ending his athletic career.


The 1924 Olympics were the last to see tennis as an event until it was brought back in 1988.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "History of the 1924 Olympics in Paris." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/1924-olympics-in-paris-1779596. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2023, April 5). History of the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/1924-olympics-in-paris-1779596 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "History of the 1924 Olympics in Paris." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/1924-olympics-in-paris-1779596 (accessed May 28, 2023).